“Opportunity isn’t a chance; it’s a choice. And it is the choices we make that define the paths our lives will take.” -Robin Wizowaty, author of My Maasai Life
I live my life by this quote, believing strongly that choices, not chances, are what have allowed me to get where I am today, sitting here in the sunshine in southwestern Ethiopia. This quote has allowed me to put my heart and my passion before common sense ‘smart’ decisions quite a few times, decisions that have allowed me to grow and become the person I am today. The first time I really used this quote to make a tough decision was when I chose to go for an optional hike when I was on a volunteer trip my first summer in Kenya. That hike led to me meeting the Principal at a school 80km away from the nearest town, hospital, or market. The night before this optional morning hike, I did not sleep, sick with a bad case of food poisoning that kept me up in our camp feeling horrible all through the cold night.. I made the choice to get myself up and out of that tent the next morning. It was a choice that led to meeting a man who had dedicated his life to a school, to a group of children, like no one I had ever before met, and I left his office crying because I had been so awe-inspired and amazed at his commitment to the education of the children in the region. For me, it is the opportunities such as that optional hike that define who I have become.
In ‘The Beginning,’ my first blog post, I promised I would explain my strange “A World of Oysters” blog title in my second post, so get ready, it is a little, or maybe a lot, abstract. “The world is your oyster,” is a common quote most of us have heard before, but what does it mean? I see it meaning that the world is different for every one of us, and is defined by whatever experiences each and every one of us chooses to live. The world is full of paths, of options, of opportunities – of oysters, and the choices that take us down one path versus another, maybe by chance, but more often by choice, define who we are. From my experience, the world is full of these potential experiences, these opportunities presented at each and every twist and turn in our lives. “A World of Oysters” is a blog, but more importantly a community focused on the experiences and moments that define who we are and the world around every single one of us just waiting to be defined. In short Oysters represent the opportunities each of us are presented with during our journey through life, a world of choices that lead to us adding meaning to our own “world maps,” as I discussed in ‘The Beginning’. A comment by Mary Jane on my first post about the book Oyster A World History led me to do some research on actual oysters, and they are a very interesting species that have been around since the time of dinosaurs! However you connect with my blog title, whether with a love for seafood or a love for pursuing opportunities, I welcome you with open arms!
With every opportunity, or oyster, there comes an opportunity cost, a concept that has been weighing heavily on my mind today. For those of you non-introduction to economics students reading “A World of Oysters,” an opportunity cost is the thing you must forgo when you make a decision, think of it as the next best option. For example, for me to go on a three-month internship to Ethiopia, I had to decline my acceptance to attend an amazing-looking three week course on Social Movements and Social Change in Brazil. So yes to Ethiopia meant I had to forego the opportunity to go to Brazil.
To be the type of person who jumps at opportunities, that person always running from one thing I love doing to the next, it doesn’t come without its consequences. To be brutally honest, I do not see my family, both immediate and extended, nearly enough. I don’t have friends I text every day, and almost all the time I am not anchored in one place because of school, I am off pursuing an opportunity or a project, be it a program in Boston or an internship in Ethiopia. This lifestyle often makes me miss the important moments in the lives of those I love. I write this post just after receiving emails from my sister regarding her high school graduation ceremony I missed yesterday. Firstly, I missed my only sibling’s high school graduation ceremony yesterday, but that is not all. My sister found out while crossing the stage that she had won not one but two scholarships, totaling $6,000! I was so proud when reading her email, but very emotional that I wasn’t there to support my sister during this big moment in her life.
It’s tough living a life where the best opportunities don’t often fit well around the family reunions, graduation ceremonies, and holiday get-togethers. Then why do I do it? I do it because I genuinely believe that I have a role to play in making this world a better place, doing everything in my power to bring opportunities to young people no different than I or my sister, with the only differentiating factor being place of birth. That is what keeps me going when I have to miss the graduation ceremonies, thinking of the work I can do for the young people whose dreams of education and graduation ceremoniescurrently on only just that – dreams.
In this blog post I was hoping to tell you all about my adventures so far in Ethiopia, but although I wasn’t there, my sister’s graduation interrupted that plan, and today I had to talk today about the opportunity cost of opportunities. Stay tuned for my next blog post where I will be talking specifically about my day to day life here in Jimma.
But for now, this blog post is dedicated to my little sister, who I am so so proud of for her success as she finishes high school and looks ahead to adulthood and life at university.
Today in the comments, I would love to hear some of the opportunity costs you had to forgo in order to follow your heart and passion, and where that has taken you.
Thank you so much for reading; I look forward to reading your comments and hearing your stories!